The attributes of long-serving counselling volunteers in the Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong

DProf thesis

Kan Pak Kei, V. 2017. The attributes of long-serving counselling volunteers in the Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong. DProf thesis Middlesex University Institute for Work Based Learning
TypeDProf thesis
TitleThe attributes of long-serving counselling volunteers in the Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong
AuthorsKan Pak Kei, V.

The Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong (SBHK) was established in 1960. It provides an around-the-clock telephone hotline service, using volunteers as para-counsellors to help people who are in emotional distress and have suicidal thoughts. There are currently more than 200 volunteers. This aim of this research is to explore the reasons for the great length of time that some volunteers have served. This emerged from my intention to publish a book about volunteering in SBHK to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 2010.
This is a piece of autoethnographic research, as I am one of those long-serving volunteers. Through this research approach, I was able to capture my own lived experience (auto) of the Samaritan culture in Hong Kong where I am a member and those of ten long-serving Samaritans as well as our executive work, which constitute the ‘ethno’ aspect of this culture. The ‘graphy’ is the pulling together of my interactive knowledge and understanding of my organization in order to deepen my own understanding and practice and, as a member of the executive, influence policies to best support retention and longevity, as experience is built up over time in a particular system of cultural practices that take place at the interface of life and death. It is a value-imbued environment that focuses on contributing to the health of the community in which it is situated and attending to members of the community who have become marginalized or isolated for a variety of reasons, from personal to socio-political. Through an analysis of our practice and the experiences of eleven long-serving volunteers, insights were developed into why so many volunteers have remained in this mini-culture for so long, working and regularly continuing their professional and personal skills development.
The retention factors identified in the volunteers are, in general, compatible with other research on long-serving volunteers in other parts of the world. The findings highlighted a general commitment to helping others, influenced by a range of factors, including past experience in connection with other suicide cases or specific childhood experiences, which had drawn their attention towards ways of helping others. There were incidences of a ‘self-oriented motive’; that is, taking advantage of the service for knowledge seeking or improvement in communication skills. However, satisfaction of these needs did not result in them leaving the service, as some literature has recorded.
Factors relating to the practices of the organization that enhance retention include belonging to a reputable organization, satisfaction in handling cases successfully, bonding with other volunteers and taking on management roles.
This is an autoethnographic piece of work and, as the researcher, I sought to improve my own thinking and practice through this research of my ‘culture’ and practice, deepening my understanding, as I also have the role of maintaining or developing such practice as a director of SBHK. This research therefore shares the insights gained by looking deeply into a system of which one is a member and seeking to understand it and its role, and using wider knowledge to reflect on our own. My exploration took me into areas including criteria of resilience, questioning what wisdom is and how it is reached, and drawing on the wider cultural systems of the Asia Pacific region, including Buddhism and the concept of ‘selflessness’, as a step towards wisdom.

Research GroupWork and Learning Research Centre
Department nameInstitute for Work Based Learning
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print28 Jun 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited28 Jun 2017
Accepted15 Jun 2017
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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